Jessica’s Blog

Escaping Sensory Overload

I was dealing with a lot of sensory overload. I was all touched out and fed up with any kind of sensory input. I decided to run off to the room and draw. Drawing was my very first special interest ever as an autistic person. I still have a binder full of my drawings when I was a little girl.

A picture of me sketching and drawing

I used drawing as a way to escape reality when I was little. I was constantly abused and needed an outlet. Since I’m a very visual person, my drawings seemed to come to life right in front of me and it almost felt like I was in a whole different world. When I was little, my favorite things to draw were flowers and cats. In the picture above, I’m working on a drawing of a bush with hydrangeas from our garden outside. I took a picture of it and now copying the picture.

My inner child felt happy doing what she used to love to do. I felt at peace drawing. I never liked coloring my pictures so this time I went out of my comfort zone and used colored pencils. I tried my hardest to capture every detail and shade everything correctly. I’m not the best with shading color but I feel like it turned out pretty good regardless. I plan on doing more drawings with color as soon as I finish this one.

I have no idea when this picture will be finished because the baby still doesn’t give me many breaks. It will be posted on my Instagram so please follow me on there. Scan the QR code below!

Difference Between Meltdowns & Shut Downs | Autism

A lot of people seem to be confused between meltdowns me shutdowns. In this blog I will explain how they’re similar and how they’re different.

Meltdowns

Meltdowns are more of a physical or external response to too much sensory input. It may look like screaming and crying, sometimes throwing objects, squirming around and doing self injurious behaviors. It’s a more obvious sign that an autistic person is in distress. It’s actually what most people are used to seeing. You’ll mainly see this with autistic children but autistic adults still have them too.

Shut Downs

Shut downs are more of an internal response and it’s not always so noticeable to other people. It may look like the autistic person is dissociating or zoning out. They may seem more quiet and disengaged and may hide away or distance themselves.

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I tend to shut down way more than I have meltdowns because I was abused as a child for having meltdowns so it’s one of my autistic traits I had to suppress and mask. I still have meltdowns but it comes with a lot of shame and embarrassment especially when others have witnessed it. I also have this constant feeling that people see me as immature and childish when they do witness me meltdown.

With my shutdowns, if you don’t know the signs of it, you can very easily miss me experiencing it because it’s so subtle. People just think I’m not paying attention and they move along without taking into consideration that I’m in distress. Then I feel all alone and abandoned because at that moment I don’t always have the words to express how I’m feeling and may not even feel 100% safe to express myself. I always fear others invalidating my struggles and emotions which makes it much worse for me so I just shut everyone out to avoid that kind of hurt and gaslighting.

Meltdowns and shutdowns are very similar because they’re both triggered the exact same way. They’re both triggered by sensory overload. It’s just one is more obvious and the other is more subtle. Both require attention in order to be able to function better.

I’ve experienced many situations where I shutdown instead of having a meltdown and the person around me says I seemed fine when I later try to express that I was in distress at that specific moment. I’m sure this will be a shocker to most people that know me, but I have shutdowns daily and sometimes several times a day. Most times when I say “I’m fine”, I’m really not. I’m just scared to express myself. I bottle up a lot inside to protect my feelings while at the same time breaking myself down even more. It’s very overwhelming for me to always have to go through this and not always knowing who is the safest person to communicate with. It’s also very hard to feel safe in general in a world that wasn’t made for me and my specific needs and when I’ve already experienced so much trauma throughout my life.

Now before I end up trauma dumping on this blog post, I’ll end it right here.

Stimming & Autism

Stimming is just another word for self stimulation. Most people stim but what makes it so distinct with autism is the frequency of it. There’s different ways to stim. You can stim using any of your senses. Some of
my stims are rocking back and fourth, spinning in circles, flapping my
hands, tapping my finger tips together, pacing, tapping certain parts of
my body like my thigh or my neck or head. I also shake my head, eye
track, sniff everything, and love stroking and rubbing against my
favorite textures. I’m under responsive to touch so I’m very much a
sensory seeker but I can also can very sensitive to certain kind of
sensory input which would cause me to stim excessively. If I receive bd
sensory input, I immediately need to receive a good input to fix it or I
can’t unfeel it. Different stims also go with different emotions. You can
tell which emotion I’m feeling just by the way my body moves. If I’m
flapping my hands open palm, I’m most likely happy. But if I’m hand
flapping with my fists clenched shut, I’m feeling some kind of tension.

My brain is gathering information at all times. My senses are at work all the time. My brain processes sensory input differently than a neurotypical person. Sometimes my brain receives way too much information to process and it sends me into a meltdown or shutdown. Quite often I find myself having to take many breaks and do some stimming that’s comforting for me to help restore myself. Even after having a meltdown, I require a lot of after care or self care to be able to function again.

Stimming helps me be able to process information better and it counteracts the bad sensory input. Stimming helps release intense emotions that I’m not able to regulate. It helps me feel my existence when I feel nothing at all and like I’m floating away. I don’t know any other simpler way of explaining it so I hope this made sense to you all.

It’s important to know that stimming is perfectly fine and you should never stop an autistic person from stimming unless it’s harmful. I would appreciate if my friends and family encourage my stims and don’t ever make it seem like it’s a problem. Me stimming doesn’t always mean there’s something wrong. As I said before, different stims can mean different things. I want to be able to move my body in a way I feel is necessary so I can navigate through this world effectively. I’ve suppressed my stims for way too long and now I’m easily burned out. It’s not healthy for an autistic person to suppress stims or any of their autistic traits.

In the merch section of this site, I have different shirts I created and one of them says “JUST KEEP STIMMING”. Head on over to place an order for one if you’re interested.

Working on a Autism Documentary

I’m really so ecstatic to let you all know that I have been working on a autism documentary. I don’t have the money to get it professionally filmed so I’m filming it all and editing everything myself. My whole plan is to have this documentary finished and launched before I launch my autism poetry book. The reason is because I want to add a QR code in the book so the book buyers can scan it and have access to the documentary as well. I’m just looking for different ways to advertise everything.

This documentary will have raw footage showing you what it’s like being autistic for me. I will be posted on youtube and then I will link it here on a new blog post so you all can watch it too. I’m very excited about this and have been working really hard to get this done and make sure it’s as perfect as possible considering it’s going to be a home made film.

It’ll really mean the world to me if all if you watch it once it’s launched and let me know what you think of it. Also, I would love it if you all share it on all your social media platforms as well so it can reach the maximum amount of people as possible. Keep a watch out for that update blog post. I’m not sure exactly when this will be released. I want it released as soon as it’s put together so I will continue working hard on this. Wish me luck!

Autism & ADHD | What it’s like having both

I really am excited about this blog post because a lot of people have absolutely no idea what it’s like having 2 different disorders co-occurring. I’ve heard a few people say that autism and ADHD are the same thing. It really upsets me because I know exactly how different both are and how they affect me differently. In this blog, I’m going to explain how both disorders basically contradict each other on a lot of things.

Autism vs ADHD

My autism causes me to be overstimulated and need to shut down but my ADHD causes me to be hyperactive and now I can’t relax enough to restore myself.

My autism insists I need order and routine but my ADHD makes it hard to follow the routine because I get bored and distracted easy.

My autism wants to obsess over a special interest and while my ADHD mostly agrees with that because it makes me hyper fixate on my autistic special interests, I still get distracted and bored easily which makes me unable to stick to one thing for too long. That’s why I have a long list of crafts that I do and continue to add more to the list.

My autism causes me to be sensory avoidant but my ADHD causes me to need constant stimulation so I’m always stuck picking which one will have the least harm done if I ignore it.

My autism makes me not want to be social but my ADHD pushes me to be social because being stuck at home relaxing doesn’t feel good for my ADHD, which then makes my autism very uncomfortable struggling with the lack of social cues.

I need sleep to restore my autistic brain but my ADHD makes me feel restless and now I can’t shut my brain off so I’m up all night with racing thoughts that my autism is unable to process.

My autism wants to organize everything in my space but my ADHD makes it hard to stay focused on a task and both conditions tend to struggle with execution dysfunction.

My autism causes me to have meltdowns due to sensory processing issues while my ADHD doesn’t really care unless it’s distracting me.

My autism does very well focusing on details but my ADHD causes me to easily forget the details and now I need a step by step process broken down.

My autism makes me learn new things pretty quick but my ADHD makes me hyper focus on something else prematurely and now I can’t retain the information I learned.

My autism makes me shut down and occasionally have non verbal episodes when dealing with severe sensory overload but my ADHD makes it hard to shut up sometimes and I talk nonstop.

My ADHD causes me to be impulsive but my autism can’t tolerate unpredictability and now I have to carefully plan it out before it’s executed.

It feels like a constant war in my head between the two. I can’t always accommodate one’s needs without interrupting the other. My depression is amplified due to the confusion and inability to be comforted. I can’t help myself when there’s such confusion.

While there are some similarities between the two, it’s definitely not the same thing and it’s absolutely not the same spectrum. Some people have one or the other but there’s some who deal with both and it’s very complicated. I hope you learned something from this blog because it’s very important to be able to recognize the difference so that you can accommodate your needs accordingly.

Autistic Meltdowns

As an autistic person, I’m going to try to describe to you what a meltdown feels like for me. This is my own experience and it may differ from person to person. Remember that autism is a spectrum disorder so therefore not all autistic people present exactly the same.

I’m going to start out with letting you know some of my triggers.

Too much sensory input

I don’t process or regulate sensory input very well. If my brain is receiving too much information, it causes a meltdown. Examples being too much bright lights, too much noise(even background noises going on at the same time), even too much touch when I’m already sensory avoidant. To resolve this, I prefer to hide in a dark or dim room away from any sensory input.

Not enough sensory input

Because I’m mostly a sensory seeker, I tend to feel like my body is floating away if I don’t have weight or deep pressure to keep me grounded. I always jump from feeling way too much to feeling nothing at all and both can trigger a meltdown. On days I need to seek sensory input, I may stim more, I love crawling in my sensory swing, I crave tight hugs and cuddles and I love watching my sensory night light glow and play calming sounds.

Too strong emotions

I can’t regulate my emotions so strong emotions can trigger a meltdown. Having to battle major depression also doesn’t make things easy on me.

Abrupt changes

Change is very hard for me especially if it’s in the last minute and no warning. If I spend days or weeks mentally preparing myself for the plan, it can’t just change in a blink of an eye. I need enough time to process the change so please give me fair warning way in advance to decrease any chance of me melting down.

When I’m having a meltdown, my whole body is literally in physical pain. My brain goes blank trying to process the thing and it being unsuccessful. My nerves in my body go haywire and I can’t tolerate any kind of input. I feel like I’m suffocating. I tend to hit myself in the head, I may violently squirm around, I’m crying and screaming, I can be destructive and this can go on for a few minutes or more than an hour. At this time, nothing really helps me. The meltdown just need to run its course and once I’m finally settled down enough to speak, that’s when my loved ones are able to intervene and make me feel comfortable and secure. This is the time when deep pressure works wonders. It is not a good idea to ask me any questions when I’m actively having a meltdown because my brain absolutely can not process conversation at that moment. I can’t hear you over all the background noise that’s excessively loud in my ears. Also don’t make it worse by trying to argue with me or saying something you know will upset me even more. Also, please don’t tell me to calm down. I’m trying really really hard and you can’t possibly understand if you don’t have sensory processing issues. My meltdowns are not intentional. I can’t just flip a switch and make it stop once it has started. Also, please don’t raise your voice at me, because I will get aggressive and fight off the trigger. As I already stated, I can’t tolerate noise at all during this time. Please be patient with me while I try to recuperate. Meltdowns are so draining and my energy levels drop drastically for the rest of the day. Sometimes it can take me a week or more to fully restore myself from a severe meltdown.

I absolutely hate being seen during these vulnerable times, especially by the public. I’m not a brat or defiant. My brain just receives way too much information and I can’t fully process it all the same way others can. I always feel ashamed and filled with guilt every time because I always feel like people have a negative view of me and I always fear abandonment from my loved ones. I was made to feel like a burden most of my life so I still have those past traumas internalized in me. After a meltdown starts to subside, I still feel afraid, lonely, dissociated and tired. I do tend to shut down, which I’ll go into further details about in another blog. I may or may not have a seizure. I also may or may not go nonverbal due to being burned out from that meltdown. It really affects me mentally and physically.

I really hope this blog helps you all understand what it’s like for me having a meltdown and also to let you know that even as an adult, I still do have meltdowns. Thank you for reading this blog.

Working on a autism poetry book

I’ve been working on something really exciting for the last few months that I can’t wait to share with the world. Not sure if all of you know this, but I’m an author. I currently have 4 books published. I’ve been working on numbers 5 and 6. The 5th book is going to be an autism poetry book. My goal is to write a poem on every single relevant topic related to being autistic so that I can help others see the world through my autistic eyes. My plan is to launch this book before April 2022. I want it out just in time for autism awareness month because I think it’s very important that autistic voices are uplifted and heard in a month where people like to talk over autistic people. I also think this is the perfect opportunity for my friends and family to learn more about autism explained in a way I know best, which is poetry. Life being autistic will be broken down into details. This book is my whole life and will be packed with my own experiences. I’ve been working so hard on this book. I already have the photo taken for the book cover. One of my best friends let me take a picture of myself on her tree in her backyard.

Picture of me smiling while climbing a tree wearing a leopard print shirt and holding one of my favorite stim toys.

I figured I’d let you all know about the book so you can keep an eye out for the big announcement when it’s finally released. I hope this book becomes a best seller. I hope I make a difference. I’m on a mission to bring this world 1,000 steps closer to accepting autism and busting all the myths and stigmas of autism. Autism is not a tragedy.

I’m still trying to make sure I have a blog to post weekly but if for some reason, I end up skipping a week or 2, it’s because my focus is on writing poetry. I’ll try my best to juggle the 2 without falling off track. I also have to keep in mind I also have a business that I run and two kids to take care of and a husband. I’ve been trying to type out these blogs weeks in advance and scheduling them so I have enough wiggle room to do other things and not feel too overwhelmed. Wish me luck!

Blue Pumpkins for Autism?

I know a lot of you have seen the blue pumpkins circling around on social media. It’s supposed to let the person know that the child is autistic and may not be able to speak. While there’s so many people who thinks this is a brilliant idea; the majority of the actually autistic community disagrees with this.

An autistic child should not be forced to walk around with this because it’s nobody’s business what their neurological status is. Please respect your child’s privacy. It’s very dangerous because it lets predators know this child is vulnerable and most likely has no sense of danger. It makes autistic children who carry those pumpkins the perfect target. Just because they may be supervised by an adult, doesn’t mean something bad still can’t happen.

Also, that person should be respectful and inclusive with every child without needing a blue pumpkin as a reminder. Just be a decent human being and give the damn candy to the child. Everyone should be able to get candy no matter what.

Also, people are easily confusing this for the teal pumpkins which are for allergies. This literally poses a health risk because I’m sure it’s really hard to tell the difference of color when it’s dark out. Please don’t use this for your autistic child. This is not autism acceptance at all.

What it’s like being autistic and married to an allistic

Picture of my husband and I underneath the sun shining down on us

For those of you who don’t know what the term allistic means, it’s simply a non autistic person. I use that term because my husband is considered neurodivergent so therefore he’s not neurotypical. He just isn’t autistic. I won’t disclose his neurotype on here because I want to respect his privacy as it’s not my place to tell his story. He will do so whenever he is ready.

At this time I’m typing this blog, we’ve been married for 4 years and together for a total of 9 1/2 years. It really has been a crazy ride for us filled with ups and downs. When we first got together, I did not disclose my autism diagnosis right away. I didn’t want him to think I’m too weird and then lose interest in me. I did however mention it at some point within the first year together very briefly but he never asked me to elaborate so I didn’t push it either. I felt like as long as he was just aware of it and made that informed decision to continue on with this relationship, then all was good. This is why autism awareness does nothing for autistic people. You can be aware of it but if you don’t learn about it and accept it, then it’s a dead end.

He had already spent time with me so he didn’t really think me being autistic would change anything. It was more like an “oh ok, cool”, and that was it. He didn’t know much about autism and had only knew one other person who was autistic, which was one of his family members.

His lack of knowledge really made things complicated. I can’t understand social cues so that made friendships and relationships hard for me. He used to send me flirtatious messages and I didn’t understand I needed to reciprocate so instead I would reply with “I miss you”. When I didn’t know what to say, that’s what I replied with as a way to keep the conversation going. I’m not really great with back and forth conversations. I’m sure he was very confused but he never questioned it. Being with him long enough, I eventually did pick up on how to respond to him and now he can’t handle it, haha.

When we first moved in together, he couldn’t tolerate some of my sensory seeking behaviors. Over time he got used to most of it and now just lets me do my thing.

Sometimes it’s really hard to communicate with him because I see things from my perspective and he has his own perspective on things but can’t seem to reach my level. He often doesn’t understand that I feel emotions on a much deeper level than a allistic person and I can’t regulate it. I also tend to come off as needy and he doesn’t always understand why I need constant attention. Sometimes I feel rejected by him and then I internalize that and feel like the marriage is falling apart. We’ve managed to pull through every obstacle so far which is great.

If I had to say what our biggest struggle is, I’d have to say communication. I often need things explained to me in explicit details or I can’t visualize whats being said and it doesn’t get processed in my brain. Him not specifying enough details often results in me not performing the task he asked me to do correctly or at all. He has gotten upset over it which overwhelms me. I’m always feeling like I’m performing wrong even when I’m not.

I’m also always stressed about the subtexts in conversations. I don’t understand it very well and would rather things be explained in a more direct way, no beating around the bush.

Another point I want to touch on is my sensory needs. I’m typically a sensory seeker so I don’t mind touch as long as I’m not overstimulated and feeling touched out. I crave affection from him and deep pressure from his weight on top of me. I crave skin to skin and being caressed and loved physically. My love language is physical touch. I often feel as though he sees affection as a chore and often resists. Usually when I try to explain how it makes me feel, it seems he has a hard time understanding and may say hurtful things without thinking. I completely understand that it’s almost impossible for an allistic person to understand every aspect of my needs as an autistic person but I also don’t want to be invalidated for it because this is my reality.

Aside from all the struggles, we have many many happy moments. I can go on and on about all our memories and show all the pictures we took over the years but it’s too much for you all.

When he’s not in a irritable mood, he’s very loving and sweet. He’s very quick to come to my defense when someone else upsets me. And on a good day, he can be more affectionate. He’s still learning and growing and I hope that we only continue to grow closer. He has definitely come a long way from when we first got together and I’m very proud of all his improvements and his eagerness to learn more about what would accommodate me so I can live a happier life. He’s watched me at my best moments and he’s also seen my worst from severe meltdowns to intense autistic burnout and going non verbal. I’m sure that’s a lot for him to take in and he has to be strong and keep it together for me. It’s a hard task but he chose to ride it out with me until death do us part. I love him so much and want nothing more than to be with him forever.

If you’re interested, I posted a Autism Q&A Spouse Edition video on YouTube linked below if you would like to listen to my husbands perspective

https://youtu.be/4-0p5HKxf3M

What it’s like being autistic and becoming a mother

I know a lot of my followers have been looking forward to this blog post for a while now and I’m so happy I was able to get to it for you. In this post I’ll be talking about being autistic and pregnant and my transition to motherhood. I think it’s very important I talk about this because even though I was able to mask almost every external autistic trait about me, I still couldn’t unfeel the internal part. My loved ones may not know the whole extent due to me masking and I’m sure they would love to know my perspective on things.

I got pregnant with my first child back in July 2014. At the time, I didn’t even know it was possible for me to get pregnant in the first place. My doctors told me I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and even though it was still possible to get pregnant, they made it seem like it would take a long time to conceive. We weren’t planning to have a baby just yet as that was my first month living with my then fiance (now husband). So to have ended up pregnant in less then a month without even trying was such a shock to me. My mom and husband seemed to know I was pregnant before I even knew. I decided to take a test and sure enough, it came back positive. I sometimes do see double so I thought it was just my vision messing with me so I sent a picture to my best friend at the time and she confirmed it was a positive test. I was so happy but also scared at the same time.

My second child was planned but it took us almost a year to conceive her. Much longer than me fast unplanned firstborn. I started to lose hope and figured we would never have another child together. I did end up pregnant in May 2019 but unfortunately it ended as a miscarriage. I ended up pregnant again shortly after with my rainbow baby. It was bittersweet having to grieve the baby I lost all while feeling blessed and ecstatic about the new baby I was carrying.

I had some complications during the pregnancies that were completely unrelated to my autism. It was more medical related, like increased asthma attacks, seizures and fainting. As far as the sensory processing aspect, I feel like it amplified all the normal pregnancy discomforts. Pregnancy hormones combined with sensory processing issues is such a struggle. My emotional dysregulation was more intense during my pregnancies. With my first, I was excessively emotional and with my second, I was excessively irritable. Naps was my best friend and fulfilling my cravings were very crucial to keeping me content. I did enjoy the baby movements and really felt deeply connected to both my babies from the moment I realized they were in my belly. With my second, I was more hypervigilant and paranoid in fear of losing her too. I wasn’t able to calm my nerves down. I really fixated on keeping up with the movements and even made trips to the hospital every time I had a scare just for peace of mind. The miscarriage really affected me emotionally. I was so afraid!

I ended up with really bad postpartum depression after both babies. That alone was difficult to manage. I definitely feel like the amount of masking I had to do most likely contributed to the extent of my depression. All my meltdowns had to be suppressed to make sure I don’t injure myself and the babies in my belly. I had to try so hard to contain my emotions that I couldn’t even regulate because I needed to keep stress levels low. I honestly suppressed a lot of my stimming as well because I didn’t want the doctors to assume I’m mentally unstable and then I end up with my babies taken away from me. I’m living in a world where autism is not accepted as it should be and a lot of people assume autistic people are incapable of functioning. I shouldn’t have to fear losing my babies just because of my different neurotype. Some may feel I was just overthinking, but unless you’ve tried living life being autistic, then you can’t possibly understand all the struggles, stereotypes and stigmas that are attached to being autistic. There’s organizations that literally want to eradicate autistic people so I highly doubt they would be happy if we’re happily living life and procreating and possibly passing down autism to our children since it is genetic.

As a mother, I’d say I’m actually very patient despite people’s assumptions of autistic mothers. I’m not perfect though. I do have many days where I run and hide in a dark room where I have little to no sensory input. I get overstimulated very easy but I have never been a danger to my kids under any circumstances. I’ve always been able to make sure the kids are in a safe place where they won’t get hurt or where I can see them from a distance and take my break as needed. I still find myself suppressing meltdowns because I can’t always make sure the kids are distracted and away from me and my main priority is to keep my kids safe. I have many coping skills to offset some of my bottled up emotions. Those coping skills are my special interests which I’ll talk about in another blog post.

One of the biggest reasons I started to unmask my autism is because both my kids were diagnosed with autism as well. I don’t want them to feel like they need to mask who they are to please people around them. I have to set a good example for them so I had to go out of my comfort zone and find my true self again and be her which was very difficult since I’ve masked for so many years. I’ve noticed I’m much happier when I allow myself to be myself without holding anything back. It feels so great to see my kids be themselves while watching me do the same. While in the process of finding myself and unmasking, I learned all about which accommodations work best for me in order to live a more effective and functional life. I purchased a bunch of stim toys to play with to counteract all the triggering sensory input. I also have noise cancelling earplugs when I need to block out the sensory input from noise as I’m very sensitive to it. If I’m too touched out, I ask my husband to take over for a few minutes and I’ll take a break. Now I have a sensory swing I like to cocoon myself in which has been tremendously helpful for me. With the right accommodations specific to my support needs, I’m able to function with very little issues. I have good days and I have bad days and that’s ok. I’m a great mother and my kids adore me. I have a very deep connection with them that no one else has. I feel since I’m autistic and so are they, there’s no better place for them to be than with me. I understand exactly what they need to thrive. It’s my job to pave a positive and healthy future for them and I feel like for the most part I’ve done an outstanding job. I still have a lot to learn but we can all learn together.

As I continue my autism journey trying to find myself, I hope my kids NEVER lose themselves. I hope to someday completely be unmasked. That’s still a work in progress but I’m getting there little by little.

The next blog post I’ll be talking about what it’s like being autistic and married to a non autistic person so stay tuned.